While Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg testifies before Congress this week over the company’s data-security policies, the company has received a criticism from the right for an entirely different scandal. Diamond and Silk, the on-video aliases of sisters Lynette Hardaway and Rochelle Richardson, are accusing the social network of unfair discrimination and censorship after it labeled their pro-Trump videos “unsafe to the community.”
Diamond and Silk have a shared Facebook page with 1.4 million mostly conservative followers. There, the vlogging duo—who emerged during the 2016 campaign as supporters of and then surrogates for Donald Trump, who remains a fan—regularly share videos with their fans. Diamond is more vocal of the two, typically attacking Trump critics in long tirades. Silk shares her support of her sister’s thoughts mostly by saying “that’s right” and nodding vigorously. The duo has also been known to rail against dubious Democratic “scandals” like the Uranium One story and once appeared on the radio show of a white nationalist. There was also a weird incident last summer in which the pair visited the Commerce Department to discuss ways they could grow their “small business”—even though their business was a political blog and online store that sold Trump-branded pins.
Beginning in September, the two began noticing that Facebook was limiting the reach of their posts and preventing them from alerting followers to new videos on their page. After months reaching out to Facebook for an explanation with no firm response, they say they received an email from the company last week saying that their “content and [their] brand has been determined unsafe to the community,” and that Facebook’s decision was final and “not appeal-able in any way.”
“They gave us no rationale,” the sisters said on Fox News’ Fox & Friends on Sunday. “The only thing they told us is that we are unsafe for the community. We are two women of color, how are we unsafe? We don’t sell drugs, we don’t belong to no gangs. It’s offensive, it’s appalling, it taints our brand. Why are you censoring two black women? Why are you not allowing our viewers to view our content?” They also posted a video shared by a follower in which he wasn’t able to adjust his page settings to see Diamond and Silk content first in his news feed. The women called this an “undercover bias tactic” and censorship by Facebook.
The issue came up during Zuckerberg’s first appearance on Capitol Hill Tuesday, during a joint hearing of the Senate Judiciary and Commerce committees. Republican Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas included Diamond and Silk among a coterie of conservative entities he said has been wronged by Facebook, including CPAC, Mitt Romney, Chick-fil-A, and Glenn Beck.
Responding to Fox News earlier Tuesday, Facebook confirmed it did label Diamond and Silk’s content as “unsafe” to Fox News before admitting fault in the way it handled the situation. Facebook has since reconsidered the “unsafe for community” tag it dropped on the duo.
“We have communicated directly with Diamond And Silk about this issue,” a Facebook spokesperson said in a statement to Fox News. “The message they received last week was inaccurate and not reflective of the way we communicate with our community and the people who run Pages on our platform. We have provided them with more information about our policies and the tools that are applicable to their Page and look forward to the opportunity to speak with them.”
Diamond and Silk’s situation joins a growing trend of conservatives not just distrusting much of the media for purported liberal bias, but lumping in social media giants such as Facebook, Twitter, and Google into that group, too. Facebook faced a Senate inquiry over supposed anti-conservative bias in its Trending News section in 2016. The idea was again popularized in January when Google memo author James Damore sued his former employer for discriminating against conservative white men (the suit was dropped in February after a federal agency lawyer found his memo didn’t qualify under collective action protections in the workplace). Social media platforms such as Facebook and Twitter face a difficult balance in balancing users’ rights to free speech while preventing the spread of hate, abuse, and misinformation. It’s possible that, in Diamond and Silk’s case, moderators found that their rhetoric veered from impassioned to hateful—but without greater transparency on Facebook’s part, it’s impossible to know.